NEW YORK (Nov. 7)
Memorial meetings across the country will be held this week to mark the 34th anniversary of “Crystal Night” (Kristallnacht) – Nov. 9-10, 1938 – when members of the Nazi Party and SS raided Jewish stores and synagogues throughout Germany, killed 36 Jews and arrested and sent more than 21,000 to concentration camps. The night got its name from the smashed glass that littered the streets of nearly every German city and town after the rampage.
“Crystal Night” marked the first severe organized violence against German Jews that foreshadowed the holocaust that was to follow. The night of terror, in which 192 synagogues were set afire and 7500 Jewish businesses were destroyed or damaged, came after a 17-year-old Jewish boy, Hershel Grynszpan, killed vom Rath, a German Embassy official in Paris.
Officially, the government described the devastation as the spontaneous reaction of the German population against the Jews for the shooting of vom Rath. However, there was, in fact, nothing spontaneous about it. Reinhard Heydrich, chief of the secret police, sent a letter to police authorities which stated:
“On the basis of the attack against (vom Rath), demonstrations against the Jews are expected throughout Germany on the night of November 9-10. The chiefs of state police offices are to contact at once the competent political leadership to reach agreement on a discussion concerning the implementation of the demonstrations.” A year later, Nov. 27, 1939, a similar rampage broke out in Austria. Stormtroopers plundered and destroyed 78 synagogues and desecrated and devastated 45 cemeteries.